Bouke de Vries at Sir John Soane’s Museum
We are delighted to share the news that Bouke de Vries will be having an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London opening on June 7, 2023.
Inspired by William Hogarth’s series of original paintings at the Soane Museum, de Vries will draw on his love of storytelling, and talent for symbolism through ceramics, with eight newly created porcelain vases presented in various states of (dis)repair. Starting with an immaculate celadon vase, de Vries treats the following seven increasingly deteriorating vases with a variety of restoration processes and glazes, which parallel the moral and physical degeneration of Hogarth’s anti-hero Tom Rakewell. Cracks appear in the surface, the vessels slump and implode – with obvious and drastic methods of repair failing to save the vase or Rake from their ultimate demise.
Visions in Porcelain, A Rake’s Progress
June 7 – September 10, 2023
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
ABOUT Bouke de Vries
Bouke de Vries (1960) was born in Utrecht, NL
He lives and works in London, UK
Bouke de Vries studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven, and Central St Martin’s, London. After working with John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes, he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration at West Dean College. Every day in his practice as a private conservator he was faced with issues and contradictions around perfection and worth: “The Venus de Milo’ is venerated despite losing her arms, but when a Meissen muse loses a finger she is rendered virtually worthless.”
Using his skills as a restorer (c.f. Ron Mueck’s model-maker skills), his ‘exploded’ artworks reclaim broken pots after their accidental trauma. He has called it ‘the beauty of destruction’. Instead of reconstructing them, he deconstructs them. Instead of hiding the evidence of this most dramatic episode in the life of a ceramic object, he emphasises their new status, instilling new virtues, new values, and moving their stories forward.
The more contemplative works echo the 17th- and 18th-century still-life paintings of his Dutch heritage, especially the flower paintings of the Golden Age, a tradition in which his hometown of Utrecht was steeped (de Heem, van Alst, van Huysum inter alia), with their implied decay. By incorporating contemporary items a new vocabulary of symbolism evolves.
These ‘dead natures’ – natures morts – give everyday household objects, a plate, a milk jug, a teapot, a modern poignancy that refers back to the vanitas and memento mori paintings of that period. An installation in de Vries’s London house is arranged in the manner of Daniel Marot with white Delft domestic pottery rescued in fragments from 17th- and 18th-century rubbish tips, now dug up and partially pieced together. Among them are two small artists’ paint pots with the pigment still in them, as possibly once used by – who knows? – Vermeer or Rembrandt.